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Fewer Elk and Predators = More Mule Deer

Photo Credit: Mike Eastman

The Wyoming Game & Fish Department is looking at intentionally managing our struggling mule deer herds in the state by considering adding more aggressive elk management and predator management to the mix. 

To date, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department has a separate ongoing project “which focuses on improving habitat, adapting hunting seasons and developing science to attempt to conserve deer herds throughout the state.”  Thankfully controlling elk herds in certain areas and black bear/mountain lion populations in certain areas are tactics being thrown into the mix.

It is common knowledge that mule deer and elk don’t exist in large numbers together in the same range. Where you find large numbers of elk, you generally won’t find large numbers of mule deer and vice versa.

The same can be said of predators and I’m very glad to hear that targeted management of black bears and mountain lions may increase to help our crashing mule deer herds.

Mule deer are the icon of the West and they are quickly fading from the landscape. As a lifelong mule deer junky, it pains me to see the downward spiral they are on, and it pains me to see how long it has taken to arrive at some of these management decisions. However, it appears there is management light at the end of the tunnel and these tactics are a step in the right direction.

Check out this article for more information.  It is worth 5 minutes of your time to read it.

There is an expression that it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, in the realm of mule deer management, it takes a host of tactics to manage this species to ensure it thrives, not just one management tactic. I’m often asked, “What is the No. 1 thing leading to the decline of mule deer?” My response is, “If there was only 1 thing, we wouldn’t be having a discussion on the decline of mule deer because they wouldn’t be declining.” There are more than a handful of things affecting the mule deer decline across the West.

Mule deer are amazingly adaptable animals, but they can only take so much. It has been the perfect storm over the past 20-30 years leading to their massive population declines.

Don’t get me wrong, I love elk and elk hunting. I just don’t like to see the management of elk to the detriment of mule deer in so many areas. For example, the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming have historically produced some hellacious mule deer, but recent management in the Bighorns has been for elk and not mule deer. The entire Bighorn range offers no limited quota deer tags, only general tags, while most elk units are limited quota in this location. This leads to a very tightly managed elk herd and a loosely managed deer herd in this range. A more logical deer-to-elk balance needs to exist in my opinion.

What say you?

The post Fewer Elk and Predators = More Mule Deer appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.


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